Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth director talks action combat and getting wrangled by Zack

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth director talks action combat and getting wrangled by Zack

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth looks similar to Final Fantasy 7 Remake. However, it also appears to hide subtle refinements underneath the surface that may make it a substantially different experience. And according to game director Naoki Hamaguchi, it seems this vibe is, indeed, by design.

Last month, I had the opportunity to play Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth for myself. While I gave my honest thoughts about what I saw during that demo, the experience left me deeply curious about Rebirth’s adherence to the original formula and what pieces would deviate. Fortunately, I didn’t have to leave every curiosity unfulfilled, and I was provided the opportunity to email a few questions directly to the game’s development team, which Hamaguchi himself kindly answered.

Below, you’ll find our full exchange, which includes insight into how the game will approach both its evolved combat system as well as its new story. Also, there’s a line about Zack that I can’t get out of my head. Enjoy!

Materia Development in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

Interview with Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth Director Naoki Hamaguchi

Greetings! I’m Timothy Monbleau, Guide Editor for Destructoid. I’ve followed the Final Fantasy series since before I could even read, so it is a privilege to ask you about Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth. Thank you for your time.

Now, for my questions.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth offers a bit of a new beginning. While it continues the story of Final Fantasy VII Remake, players will have to level up their characters and Materia all over again. Was it a challenge to make Final Fantasy VII Rebirth feel fresh for those who mastered Final Fantasy VII Remake?

Naoki Hamaguchi: It was a significant decision not to carry over the growth element while keeping this installment format. However, I would like to explain that this decision was made with clear intention. The FINAL FANTASY VII remake project is planned to be a trilogy, but we don’t intend to develop the second game to fit the first game’s format, only with different content. The second title has evolved based on feedback from the first title, and naturally, the third title will evolve even further based on the feedback from the second title.

This has an impact on the battle system and the entire game experience in the field, so even if elements appear similar to the previous game, they have been adjusted, expanded, and are therefore not the same. Rather than forcing the game to be carried over and creating discrepancies in the gameplay experience for each player, we decided that it would be better for all users to be able to enjoy the game in the same state, which would result in a new and fresh experience for everyone. Of course, we’ve heard a wide range of opinions and feedback from users, but we’ve also put tremendous effort into creating an experience that will satisfy many fans, and hope those decisions will be received well.

Combat in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

As of Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy XVI, the Final Fantasy series has become much more action-oriented in recent years. Has this influenced Final Fantasy VII Rebirth in any way?

I’ve worked alongside many of the creators who’ve helped develop FINAL FANTASY XV and FINAL FANTASY XVI in several other past projects, and I deeply respect every one of them. So, when asked whether their games have influenced me in any way, naturally the answer is yes. I also have my own answer as to why we’ve seen higher demand in recent years for more action-oriented games. As game graphics have improved and can render much better immersion into the games, the user’s control functionality must also be that much more responsive in real time, otherwise that sense of immersion will be disrupted.

Although turn-based strategy certainly still has its appeal, I believe that this trend of high-end games pursuing more realistic, real-time control functionality will not change in the future.

Aerith and Cloud in battle in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

When I played the demo for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, I noticed some subtle changes to the returning characters. Aerith, for example, has new attack options and more mobility compared to her appearance in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Was feedback from players who played Final Fantasy VII Remake taken into consideration for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth?

We’ve definitely paid close attention to our player’s feedback from the previous title. The previous game was designed with an emphasis on command-based strategy, so the action portion of the game was intentionally deemphasized.

For the current title, we’ve given more latitude to action-based strategies and designed the game to allow a variety of playstyles. From there, further suggestions were made by the battle director, Endo. Following his suggestions, large adjustments were made to existing characters, and the changes made to Aerith were a result of this process.

Chocobo customization in Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
Image via Square Enix

With Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, players will get to explore more open-ended fields and pursue optional objectives. How did you decide on what kinds of sidequests to include in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth?

The two major side-content elements are “Odd Jobs” and “World Intel”. “Odd Job” side-quests are standard side-quests that can be found in most games, where the player receives a request from a client and ventures off to resolve it. However, to ensure each quest is distinct, they feature exclusive mini-games and gimmicks. In “World Intel,” you’re basically asked by Chadley to investigate points of interest around the world to help develop Materia. However, “World Intel” is much more than just that— as you investigate each region, the adventure unfolds into a much larger story that spans the entire world, and this comprehensive scale is one of its core appeals.

We’ve also added further stories and worldbuilding into “Card Game: QUEEN’S BLOOD” and “Piano”, which unfold throughout the world. Since there is a large amount of side-content included within the world map, we wanted to maintain the distinctiveness of each one, so players won’t be bored through repetitive tasks.

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth open world
Image via Square Enix

Final Fantasy VII has a history of surprising players. For example, I can still remember first seeing that there was an entire world outside Midgar when I first played Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy VII Remake took a new direction with its story that gave new meaning to the word “Remake.” Is there an aspect of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth that you hope similarly surprises fans? No spoilers, of course!

The FINAL FANTASY VII remake project titles, including FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, were developed with two ideas in mind, in terms of their core appeal. The first is re-creating what could not be expressed in the original FFVII, using modern techniques to make the audience aware of things they previously didn’t notice, therefore providing an element of fresh surprise. In the demo, the personality of young Cloud during the Nibelheim flashback was received incredibly well by fans and media alike, and similar to that, we’ve put in a lot of care to re-create certain scenes with increased realism, which allows for additional layers of discovery without changing the fundamental experience of those scenes.

The second are the deviations from the original game. Overall, we wanted the player to follow the familiarity of how this game progresses in the same way as the original, while still picking up on subtle differences in certain details, which are meant to keep the player on the edge of their seats, speculating what those deviations might mean for the story’s climax. In the previous title, the Whispers played this narrative role, whereas this time around, Zack also joins in. He will certainly entertain and wrangle the player in the best way possible.

Both of these two elements are scattered all throughout FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, and will surely provide many surprises for fans.

Image via Square Enix

What would you like to say to fans looking forward to the release of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth?

After a four-year wait, we are proud to present to you FINAL FANTASY VII REBIRTH, which has evolved even further from the previous title with its explorative world map, enhanced battle system with synergistic attacks, and storytelling that keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. The game will be released Feb. 29, and we look forward to seeing it in the hands of many people.

Once again, thank you for your time!

As Hamaguchi said himself, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth launches on PlayStation 5 on February 29.

Timothy Monbleau

Guide Editor – Timothy started writing community blogs for Destructoid in 2012. He liked it so much he decided to write articles for the site professionally. His love for RPGs and the Ys series will endure forever.

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